LIVE REVIEW / Stress and relaxation: Joseph Gallivan on unconventional behaviour from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at the Forum

NICK CAVE pulls a real rock audience. Black-clad but beyond the silliness of Goth, they're the sort of punters who, given the prospect of a big noise, dark thoughts and a few good tunes, don't mind braving the autumn gloom and cold rain. As fans go, they seem like a pretty sorted out bunch.

Old Nick himself, on the other hand, shows a few unintentional fissures in his cracked actor persona. But first: his marvellous entrance. He strolled out with just his keyboard player and a cigarette to perform the ballad 'Your Funeral, My Trial'. Putting what looks like the encore at the beginning of a show is the sort of gesture one needs more of these days. It shows you're comfortable enough to mess about with the conventional order of a show. Any corniness - the white trash character in the grey suit, the puff of smoke through the blue lights - was countered by the sheer gall of the man.

Song two, 'Tupelo', exploded into life as the guitarists and drummer joined them. Suddenly, Cave was thrashing about on the floor, all the while intoning his dread thoughts, such as: 'Go to sleep my little children, / The Sand Man's on his way.' Any Nick Cave song is a pick'n'mix of southern Gothic tropes and twisted Ry Cooder licks, atop a bed of noise. At any time he can drop into a talky bit about some femme fatale or have the band violently switch gear - like Nirvana only less predictable and with better lyrics.

But after 'Tupelo', and his customary, curt 'Th'nks', he leaned into the audience and did something bad. 'You know all the words, don't you?' he sneered, targeting someone in the front row. 'You must be about 45. You hear all the words don't you? Tha's great. (Pause) This one's for you.' In that little monologue, who was it that was really worried about growing old?

The song itself, 'I Had A Dream, Joe', was very well rendered. The former Birthday Party frontman has a loud, rich voice that fills up all the spaces in the song, and a rhythmic facility that can keep pace with the bare bass and snare of a song like 'Papa Won't Leave You, Henry'. He is one of the few artists who can still put out a good live CD. Cave's last three solo albums - The Mercy Seat, The Good Son and Henry's Dream - have seen his creativity improve with age.

So things seemed to be going fine until he took time out to ask: 'Isn't this concert going very well? I have a sudden feeling that the winds have changed.' Nobody seemed to know what he was on about.

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